By Colleen Holt
By Colleen Holt
For this issue of Women's Inc., we celebrate five years worth of wonderful women who have graced the cover of this magazine.
They have included doctors, legislators, beauty queens, moms and their daughters and moms and their sons, bankers, veterinarians, stay-at-home moms, survivors of illnesses, and widows trying to find their way in a world that has turned upside down. But no matter their label, they are women who have contributed blood, sweat, and tears to making their home, their hometown, their nation, or their world a little bit better.
In this cover story, we're taking a quick look back to get an update on five of these women and the changes that have taken place in their lives since they were first featured.
The woman featured on the very first issue of Women's Inc. was Dr. Margaret Beasley, a retired physician. Having given a large portion of her life to helping others seems to be resume enough to land a remarkable lady on the cover of a magazine. But Dr. Beasley had gone through something more - she was a survivor of breast cancer, twice.
Since her cover feature, Dr. Beasley has continued her work in the medical field, this time in the board room. In December, she finished a term as chairman of the Conway Regional Medical Center Board of Directors, and still remains on that board. And, at the first anniversary luncheon for the Women's Inc. magazine, she served as the guest speaker, bringing to a close a wonderful year of stories about women.
A search of the Log Cabin Democrat archives also finds her name in news stories associated with groups that like to make things more beautiful -- countywide cleanups and the Master Gardeners.
Margaret's personal life has changed since 2004.
"Our family has grown," she said. "Our son, Matt, married Tracy Woodard in June 2005. In June 2007 they gave us our first grandchild, Thomas Joseph. Their return to Arkansas has given us the opportunity to spend lots of time with him. He comes to spend the day with us once a week. He loves riding around the farm and looking at the cows and the tractors.
"Last year, our daughter, Susan, married Greg Little. They live in Conway and we get to see them often."
In true doctor and cancer survivor fashion, Margaret Beasley has one thing she recommends to every women: Regular breast self-examinations and regular mammograms. "Early detection and treatment of breast cancer is our best bet," she said.
Margaret says she is "fortunate to have continued in good health" since first being featured on the cover of Women's Inc. "I am thankful that has NOT changed over these years!," she said.
From pageant winner to business owner to hospital patient to bride-to-be, Renee Lawrence has had a bundle of change in her life since she was first featured on the cover of Women's Inc. in April 2005.
A native of Conway and daughter of Dee and LaVone Lawrence, this 26-year-old was first featured in the magazine as the reigning Miss Arkansas International. The article also highlighted women with great fashion, which fit Renee to a "T."
Since being on the magazine cover, Renee was named Miss Conway 2006, represented her hometown in the Miss Arkansas Pageant, and graduated from the University of Central Arkansas. And if that wasn't enough, she embarked on a business career.
"After all of my hard work in school, and with my local title, I wondered where my life would go. Not just on a personal level, but also on a professional level. So I decided to become an entrepreneur and open my own business. I opened a women's high fashion clothing boutique on Aug. 27, 2007, in the Old Town Plaza shopping center in Conway." The business, called Emerge, is still going strong today.
Things were about to change again for Renee, this time physically. "After opening my business, I later went to the Mayo Clinic and was diagnosed with a rare digestive disorder. I missed Christmas with my family last year to go and receive help with this problem that I have been battling for several years. After about six months of being on the medicine from the Mayo Clinic I started to feel better. Soon after feeling better, in June 2008 I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia.
"In October 2008 I was diagnosed with a tumor on my thyroid. Dr. Brock King encouraged me to consider removing the tumor because it was growing and at the time he could not determine whether or not it was cancer. So, after a lot of prayer and talking to friends and family, I ... decided that if I should do anything for my well being I needed to go ahead and have it removed, along with half of my thyroid. I found out the tumor was not cancerous and now I am recovering tremendously."
Renee says she had "a bittersweet ending" to 2008: On Dec. 1, 2008, her boyfriend, J.D. Stone of Conway, asked her to marry him. "He is my rock and without him I'm not sure I could have gotten through this past year."
Since her original cover feature, Renee says she has totally reevaluated her life. "After college you would assume that things might get easier. You've got your education and now it's time to just make lots of money right?" she laughs. "Well that's not actually how it happens for everyone. I would have to say the year 2008 was one of the hardest years of my life. However, I learned so much and have grown so much more because of it, not only personally but spiritually. I consider myself to be the same person but the same person who had to face numerous obstacles.
"I now know what everyone means when they say that the Lord will not give you any more than you can handle. Even though there have been days when I was ready to go on to heaven where there would be no pain and suffering, I knew that there was a purpose for me and a reason why things happen. We can just look at all the hard times that we face as an opportunity to help the next person. With everything that has happened to me since the last article I realized that every moment counts; slow down and enjoy life."
What would Renee tell Women's Inc. readers to do to live their lives to the fullest? "Don't let anyone or anything get in the way of your dreams. Believe in yourself and let yourself be GREAT!"
In a Log Cabin Democrat promotional story about the September 2005 issue of Women's Inc., the woman who would grace the cover was described thusly: "Readers will meet Dr. Sharon Stone, who is no stranger to work. She's a veterinarian, business leader, former military officer and perhaps most important, a mother."
Readers of the February 2009 issue of Women's Inc. will meet the same Dr. Sharon Stone, but with a bit of a change.
Sharon is a veterinarian and owner of St. Francis Veterinary Clinic, founded in 1996. In 2005, she was featured largely because she was a woman business owner.
Today, Sharon is pretty much that same woman, except for one thing: She is a breast cancer survivor.
"I had just completed treatment for breast cancer when that story ran," Sharon said recently. "Since then I have continued to be cancer free and I am probably a lot less conventional than I used to be. I've learned to ride a dirt bike so I can spend the day with my boys, I'm not so concerned about keeping my house spotless (or even clean if the truth be known). I feel like I'm a little bit more open minded and forgiving than I used to be."
Sharon was raised in Pocahontas, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Central Arkansas and Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine in 1991 before joining the Army. She and her husband, Steve, have three sons, ages 10, 13 and 15.
Since first featured in Women's Inc., Dr. Stone has also changed a little in regard to her business. "I sold half my practice to Dr. Thomas Cabantac so I now have a full partner in my business. I love having someone with a vested interest to help out with the business decisions. I did not realize how much work and responsibility that would lift from my shoulders. Knowing there is someone else whom I trust completely working toward the same goals as me has really made my life more enjoyable."
With a little more time to spend with her boys and husband, Sharon can live out what she wants the readers of Women's Inc. to take to heart: "I feel like it's important to enjoy what you have when you have it and not overlook the small joys that occur on a daily basis."
When Tricia O'Connor was featured on the cover of Women's Inc. in 2007, she had just finished a journey - literally and figuratively. Since then, she and husband, Rob, have taken phase 2 of that trip, and it resulted in a great addition to their family.
"The original Women's Inc. feature covered our journey to parenthood - from our first pregnancy loss to finally holding our first son, Ben, for the first time in Vietnam and returning home with him on Christmas Eve 2006. The feature also highlighted a program that was just getting started at Conway Regional Health System - The Perinatal Bereavement Program. The program was established to assist families grieving the loss of a child from conception through newborn death."
Tricia and Rob have been "journeying" together for nearly seven years. They met in Little Rock while Rob was teaching at Central High School and she was in graduate school working on a master's degree in social work. "We have lived in Conway the past six years. Rob works at Hendrix, his alma mater, and I continue, very part-time, working for my parents at The Kitchen Store."
After finding joy with Ben, the O'Connors decided to adopt again. Soon, Liam came on the scene.
"On June 20, 2007, we mailed our application to Dillon International, Inc. and began the adoption process for our second child. On Jan. 29, 2008, we got the call about our sweet baby Liam - he was 5 weeks old, born along the Mekong Delta in southern Vietnam on Dec. 26, 2007. There are no words to adequately describe the feeling of seeing your child for the first time. He is perfect. It was grueling to know Liam was on the other side of the world and months would pass before we would get travel clearance. Each day that passed we fell more in love with him."
Tricia said this adoption was different in several ways, not the least of which was the fact that they had to care for Ben in the meantime. "Of course, we were busier this time, than when we waited for Ben. We had a 2-year-old to care for and we were renovating and moving into a new home. But the waiting was hard and emotionally taxing. There was a lot of turmoil brewing between the U.S. and Vietnam on how adoptions were being handled.
"Our fears subsided when we got word that we had approval to travel and receive Liam on June 19, 2008 - exactly one year from mailing our original application. We spent an amazing two weeks in Vietnam with Ben and Liam. We are tremendously grateful to have been able to take Ben with us and to spend time in our children's country of birth. Liam has now been home with us for seven months and we can't imagine our life without him. He brings so much joy and laughter to our home."
An unexpected part of this journey is a support system that Tricia has helped to establish. "It started with a friend I met through our agency. Our group of two has now grown to 12 moms who meet monthly - we call ourselves VietMoms. We share a special bond of friendship and support that I know will grow as our children do and we discover the joys and challenges of parenting these precious little ones."
When asked what one thing she would like to tell Women's Inc. readers, Tricia talked of her amazing journey. "Being a mom is by far the hardest and greatest thing I have ever done. It is both challenging and rewarding every day. I never expected to be this tired or that I could love my kids this much. My world is fuller, brighter, and much more beautiful because of my boys.
"When Rob and I decided we wanted to be parents, I never dreamed we were setting out on a path that would lead us to southern Vietnam and the two most precious little boys. I am eternally grateful for the journey - all the peaks and valleys that brought us to our sons."
It hasn't been very long since Gena Ester was featured on the cover of Women's Inc. in 2008, but she has truly seen some changes in her life.
"The biggest change in my life since the cover story actually took place during the time the cover story was written," Gena said recently. "I was in the middle of changing jobs. To make a long story short - in July 2007, I made the decision to leave the banking industry after nearly 20 years of service and move into the community service industry as CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of North Central Arkansas. However, as fate would have it, in October 2008 I was drawn back into the world of banking. I didn't expect the transition to happen as quickly as it did. The welcomed break, however, gave me just enough time to be reconditioned and resume my former position in Credit Administration with my new employer."
A Conway native, Gena graduated in 1983 from Conway High School and in 1987 from Hendrix College. Gena was married in 1988 to her college sweetheart, Tim Ester. She said they recently celebrated their 20-year wedding anniversary in Hawaii. The Esters have a son, Jordan - a 5th grade Gifted and Talented student at Simon Intermediate, and a daughter, Kiera - a freshman at UCA majoring in Biology.
Although her career has been in the banking industry, Gena has a heart for helping. "I feel Women's Inc. chose me to be their cover girl for 'The Gift of Giving' because I have a genuine desire to help others. I believe that our talents and abilities are given to us by God to not only benefit us, but to be a blessing to others. My passion is to help young people whenever and wherever an opportunity presents itself. I also serve my community through various non-profit organizations, in my church, and alongside my husband - who has a great deal to do with inspiring me to give."
Since her job change, Gena has started serving on the Central Board of the Faulkner County Leadership Institute and as a member of the 2009 American Heart Association Go Red for Women Committee.
"After sharing my story, it made me realize how fortunate I am to be in a position to give whether it is my talents or other resources. The story expanded my circle of influence and opened many doors for me. My husband, I, and others have had many conversations since the story about other opportunities to give back to the community. We are looking at possibly partnering with organizations and businesses to enhance what we already have in place. Not to mention, being a part of a bank that has a huge investment in our community has also helped me to stay actively involved. I appreciate Women's Inc. for allowing me to share my story. As a result, many women have come to me saying how it inspired them to give back."
So how does Gena feel these many women can give something back? "I admonish everyone to make giving a way of life. I live my life by this creed found in Luke 6:38 "Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."